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2018-07-23

Next clash between US and China HoonTing@Taipei Times 20180718 Translated by Julian Clegg


Next clash between US and China  HoonTing@Taipei Times 20180718 Translated by Julian Clegg
By HoonTing 雲程  / 
Wed, Jul 18, 2018 - Page 8
On July 7, the USS Benfold and the USS Mustin — two US Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers equipped with the Aegis Combat System — passed northward through the Taiwan Strait on their way to their home base of US Fleet Activities Yokosuka in Japan.

Why did the US Navy ships choose to sail through the Strait? Was it to avoid the approaching Typhoon Maria? At the time, the typhoon was still more than 1,000km away from Taiwan, not far from Guam and too far away from the destroyers to have any effect on them.

Furthermore, the Strait is relatively shallow, with a narrow airspace above it, which makes it unsuitable for engaging in combat under modern technological conditions.

Much more suitable areas for naval combat would be the East China Sea, the Philippine Sea, which lies between the West Pacific’s first and second island chains, and the South China Sea. The destroyers’ choice to sail through the Strait must, therefore, be seen from a political perspective.

The incident brings to mind an earlier transit that took place on Nov. 22, 2007, when the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk and its support vessels headed toward Hong Kong for a Thanksgiving Day port visit following a joint exercise with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, only to be informed that China had canceled its visit.

The USS Mustin happened to have been one of the five ships in the USS Kitty Hawk’s carrier strike group. Most unusually, the US side was notified about China’s decision to deny entry to the ships by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army stationed in Hong Kong, rather than through diplomatic channels.

Beijing immediately reversed the decision and said that the Kitty Hawk would be allowed to visit Hong Kong.

However, the Kitty Hawk declined to accept Beijing’s insulting about-face and responded in kind by heading north through the Strait on the pretext of avoiding the twin typhoons Mitag and Hagibis, which were positioned on either side of the Philippines.

On its way through the Strait the Kitty Hawk took the further step of dispatching some of the aircraft it was carrying to conduct reconnaissance.

The sea conditions threatened by the twin typhoons on that occasion were more severe than those posed by Maria last week.

The incident did not occur in isolation. China had already denied access to two US Navy minesweepers to Hong Kong’s harbor to shelter from a typhoon and refuel, and it had denied access to Hong Kong for resupplying by the destroyer USS James E. Williams and a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III transport plane.

Following these incidents, the US military announced through NATO channels that a Chinese submarine had penetrated US Navy surveillance to approach the Kitty Hawk in the Pacific Ocean.

This was in reference to the exercise carried out by the US Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force before the Kitty Hawk passed through the Strait.

It is now difficult to exactly grasp the atmosphere and reasons that led to swords being drawn at the time.

However, what this series of events show is that, despite the existence of a comprehensive international system for assistance and rescue at sea, China, as one of the signatories to the relevant treaty, could still callously renege on its humanitarian responsibilities.

July 7 is the anniversary of the 1937 Marco Polo Bridge Incident, which is generally seen as the start of China’s war of resistance against Japan.

However, Beijing does not recognize it as such. The date it chooses to commemorate is the Mukden Incident of Sept. 18, 1931, based upon which it adds 14 years of war between China and Japan, with the intention of renouncing the trammels of the San Francisco Peace Treaty.

On the subject of treaties, the announcement of the Treaty of Shimonoseki between Japan and the Qing Empire in 1895 prompted the Triple Intervention by Russia, Germany and France, which pressured Japan into undoing part of the Shimonoseki Treaty by giving the Liaodong Peninsula back to China in exchange for a larger war indemnity.

Apart from this, Japan also engaged in mediation with various other countries. These exchanges resulted in Japan’s agreement that, having annexed Taiwan under the Treaty of Shimonoseki, it would not cede it to any other country, while the UK also said that it would not occupy Taiwan.

Notably, Japan, based on a Cabinet resolution, assured the consuls of nine nations — Russia, the UK, Germany, France, Austria-Hungary, the US, Italy, the Netherlands and Korea — that the Japanese imperial government recognized the whole of the Strait as being open to navigation by the ships of all nations, and accordingly declared that the Strait did not belong to Japan alone and was not under Japanese jurisdiction.

It further stipulated that the imperial government would not cede Taiwan or the Penghu Islands to any other country.

This history shows that Taiwan and the Strait have all along been issues of international concern rather than a solely Chinese affair. However, China cannot be expected to respect history and abide by the terms of treaties.

There is a long-established legal basis for US Navy warships of more than 10,000 tonnes to drop anchor and replenish at sea off the coast of Kaohsiung, and an agreement to that effect was signed at the end of last year, ready to be acted upon at any time.

Maybe that will ignite the spark for the next clash between the US and China.
HoonTing is a political commentator.
Translated by Julian Clegg
Published on Taipei Times :
http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2018/07/18/2003696875
Copyright © 1999-2018 The Taipei Times. All rights reserved.


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